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EghtesadOnline: From official reports it is apparent the water authorities have failed to manage consumption in the country over the past ten decades.

The monstrous growth of cities and population explosion has created huge problems, one of which is the unacceptably high water consumption -- a real crisis that should have been addressed long ago, Financial Tribune reported.

Potable water consumption, official numbers show, (around 200 liters per day per person) is at least 50 liters more than the global average.

What is more disturbing is the fact that the people of a country that has long been fighting drought and deep water deficits continue to consume the finite and valuable resource so injudiciously.

Observers are keen to know why people’s consumption patterns are so different from their ancestors who cared about and knew the value of water. Is it really so difficult to change people’s consumption habits or should officials be held responsible for failing to take meaningful measures to persuade the general public to conform to prudent consumption patterns.   

Answers to these and scores of other questions demand analyzing water-related data in decades past. 

According to AQUASTAT-- the FAO global information system on water resources and agricultural water management--national rainfall index in Iran was 294 millimeters per year in 1979, which declined 31% and reached 200 mm/y in 2017. 

Renewable water resources per capita was 3,000 cubic meters per year four decades ago but now is around 1,500 cubic meters per capita.

There were 40,000 agro wells in 1979 that has now reached 800,000, of which 300,000 are unauthorized. 

Annual water withdrawal from wells was around 10 billion cubic meters. This grew by 6,900% and amounted to 700 bcm in 2015.

In 1973 (when Iran’s population was 31 million) water deficit was zero, meaning no water was extracted from underground resources. The deficit started climbing in later years and reached 70 mcm in 1979. 

According to Energy Ministry data, in 2019 (population 82 million) close to 11 billion cubic meters of water was extracted from underground resources. 

Over the past 40 years, 120 bcm of underground water resources have been used and experts say it will take at least 50 years for the replenishment of depleted resources.

In 1968, there were 16 plains from which water withdrawal was banned. The figure soared 2,600% to reach 405 in 2019.

There were only 10 large dams in the country in 1979. But the number has grown dramatically and reached 550. 

Conservationists and water experts say most of the dams have been constructed without paying attention to ecological standards. The Gotvand Dam in Khuzestan Province is one that has caused an environmental disaster by reportedly contributing to the death of 400,000 palm trees in Arvandkenar in 2014.

One undeniable fact is that governments (before and after the Islamic Revolution in 1979) never took water scarcity and the depleting underground water resources as seriously as would be expected. The result is the worsening crisis that is gradually taking on dangerous proportions and leading to a situation that even the most optimistic official experts prefer not to discuss. 

There is no denying that people play a key role when it comes to curbing consumption, but it must be said with a degree of fairness that a big part of the problem is rooted in mismanagement of resources, rather than water itself. 

Separating potable and non-potable water supply is a simple and long-awaited issue that has never been on government agendas. Nor have they taken action to tap into unconventional resources like greywater that can be easily treated and reused. 

Although countries like Turkey have abundance of water,  authorities have obliged builders to install such systems in buildings.



Long-Delayed Network

Another case proving that officials have been mismanaging water resources is the long-delayed wastewater network whose groundbreaking ceremony was held in 1940 and remains incomplete in most large cities, namely Tehran.

It is disturbing to note that the projects registered a work-in-progress rate of 50% over the last 80 years and it barely covers 30 million people in the capital city.

Small towns and villages are totally deprived of wastewater network. 

Although water-scarce countries have started to rely on the use of non-conventional water resources like wastewater to partly alleviate water paucity, developing infrastructure to tap into the valuable resource has been neglected in Iran.

An estimated five bcm of urban sewage is produced in the country annually, of which less than 30% is treated and the rest is either channeled into rivers or penetrates into the ground. 

If and when the network is completed, the wastewater can make up for the rising water deficit and sewage will not be discharged into lagoons and lakes, causing ecological disasters.

Upward of 10,000 birds including flamingos were found dead at the Miankaleh peninsula, in the Caspian Sea shore in north-east Iran, last week. The most likely explanation is said to be natural water contamination.

Officials in the National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company of Iran (Abfa) have often said that water rationing is among options on the table to contain the water crisis in metropolises like Tehran. 

But they have never adopted strong educational measures to change patterns of behavior among schoolchildren, a strategy that has been proven to be more effective than threatening subscribers with fines and rationing if they do not curb consumption.


Iran Water consumption mismanagement manage